Munster SHC semi-final: Cork v Waterford, 4pm ... Cork manager Kieran Kingston says the positivity on Leeside towards the county hurlers is what the squad deserves after their hard work.
The men in red surprised Tipperary with a four-point victory in the Munster SHC opener to qualify for a semi-final clash with Waterford, and the manager acknowledges the resultant ‘feelgood factor’ .
“I’m not going to downplay that, any day Cork go up to Thurles and beat Tipperary in the championship - when Tipp are Munster and All-Ireland champions - is a good result. It’s 11 or 12 years since we did that.
"Calling a spade a spade, to do that with five debutants, three 19-year-olds and so on, that does create a feelgood factor within the county, and I certainly feel the lads deserve that for all the effort they’ve put in over the last months.”
The Tracton clubman expects a different challenge tomorrow against Waterford compared to the open, high-scoring game against Tipperary: Kingston says Waterford are “two or three years” ahead of Cork at present in terms of development.
“I think the Tipperary game was a fantastic spectacle, though it’s very hard to enjoy it when you’re on the line and you’re stuck in it. When you reflect back on it and look at it later, you can see that it was a very good game, typical Cork- Tipperary Munster championship hurling.
“From a neutral perspective - or even if you were a spectator from either county - it was a great game to watch, a great game to be involved with as well. But moving on to Waterford, I certainly wouldn’t expect that to be any reflection of the Tipp game.
“A lot of those Waterford players have minor All- Ireland medals, U21 All- Ireland medals - at senior level they’ve won a national league medal a couple of years ago, and they’ve contested more league finals on top of that.
“To a degree, we in Cork are probably where they were two or three years ago, that’s the reality. We have a very young panel, with 12 U21s on it, so we’re probably where they were two years ago coming out of 1b.” On that score, is there any replacement for the experience gained by those players against Tipperary?
“No, and it’s a great occasion for us to be involved in, a Munster semi-final in Thurles - nobody expected us to be there, so it’s a huge development, a big learning curve for our lads, many of whom haven’t experienced anything like that before.
“We’re coming up against a team which was very unlucky not to reach an All-Ireland final last year, they were part of two epic games against Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final — the kind of experience you get from those kinds of games is massive, and no matter how much training you do, there is no preparation for that. You have to go through it to experience it.
“After the Tipp game the players went back to their clubs — some of them have played two rounds of the club championship since — so we haven’t discussed or spoken about anything beyond the Waterford game. We haven’t earned the right to do that.
“It’s one game. We have to keep the Tipp game in perspective, it’s the quarter-final of a Munster championship, but that’s it, it’s one game. Tipp aren’t gone. They just happen to be taking a different route. For us we have a massive test ahead against one of the best teams in the country.”
Kingston was also keen to thank the Cork supporters: “This gives me an opportunity to acknowledge the Cork support the last day out. I thought against Tipperary the Cork support was absolutely unreal, the way they got behind the team. I’d say a lot of people went up there more in hope than anything else, but from the off they really got behind the team and gave us a real lift in Thurles - we’d certainly be hoping for the same the next day in Semple Stadium.”
And a win. After all, the qualifiers are getting crowded . ..
“No team goes out trying to go through the back door, and we’re no different, though we were probably many people’s choice to have to go that route. Again, though, we’ve only won one game.
"The back door route is very dangerous now - Tipp, Limerick and Dublin have now been joined by Kilkenny, so it’s a difficult route, but that’s not to say the front door is that easy either!”
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